A review of 70 years of GP : The sixties


The 17th edition of the A-XOC Bikers'Classics - which will take place from July 5 to 7 - will focus on a major anniversary: ​​the 70th anniversary of the Moto Grand Prix. The opportunity to take a closer look at the history of GPs. Chapter 2: The 60s.

The first years of the FIM Grand Prix are dominated by European manufacturers in general, and Italians in particular. But in the 60s, Japanese brands invite themselves to the party with only one goal : winning. Easier said than done however, especially in the category of the 500cc, where MV Agusta wins the Manufacturers Title almost unchallenged between 1958 and 1973! Only Honda manages to put their name on the charts in 1966 thanks to the riders Mike Hailwood and Jim Redman. That year, Giacomo Agostini (MV Agusta) wins the Riders' Championship, as he will do again many times.

Japanese manufacturers are more successful in small displacements, especially 50cc, a category introduced in 1962. Suzuki repeatedly wins in this small class. During this decade, the race is declared between the manufacturers, and the costs climb dramatically, forcing some manufacturers to withdraw from the competition. At the end of the sixties, only Yamaha continues to officially represent the Land of the Rising Sun. To boost the interest of manufacturers, the FIM reviews its technical regulations to reduce development and production costs. In 50cc, only monocylinders are allowed. In 125cc and 250cc, the engines are limited to two cylinders. In 350cc and 500cc, the limit is set on four cylinders ...

The rules for the riders and the allocation of points are also modified. As of 1969, the winner takes 15 points and the first 10 ranked riders also 'take points', but not all the results are taken into account for the award of the title. In 1968, for example, only 6 out of 10 results are counted.

From 1961, the calendar counts about ten races, with now also international GPs. The first race outside Europe takes place in 1960 in Buenos Aires (Argentina), soon followed by GPs in Japan (Suzuka - 1963), the United States (Daytona - 1964) or Canada (Mosport - 1967). But Europe remains the promised land of the Continental Circus, East Germany (Sachsenring), Czechoslovakia (Brno), Finland (Imatra, Tampere), Sweden (Kristianstad) and Yugoslavia (Opatija) being added to the calendar as the seasons go by.

The end of the sixties is marked by the arrival of a phenomenon: Giacomo Agostini. The Italian rider will stun the discipline with his talent and his success. From 1968 to 1972, he takes the title in two different categories (350cc and 500cc) without interruption! In 1968, he wins all the Grand Prix of the year in both categories!

The domination of Giacomo Agostini really begins in 1966, when he dislodges Mike Hailwood from the place of 'Mister 500cc'. The Brit was the man to beat in the queen category at that time. He had won the title from 1962 to 1965 with MV Agusta before moving to Honda, leaving the place of first MV rider to Ago ... and now having to settle for second place on the podium.

The 250cc category is more open. Three strong men share victories and titles: Mike Hailwood (1961, 1966, 1967), Jim Redman (1962, 1963) and Phil Read (1964, 1965, 1968). A little earlier, the Italian rider Carlo Ubbiali had also achieved a hat-trick (1956, 1959, 1960). On the side of the manufacturers, the Japanese are at the forefront, Honda winning in 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966 and 1967; Yamaha in 1964, 1965 and 1968, as well as from 1970 to 1974, but that's another story ...